“We’ll have to reverse relaxations locally, if figures stay bad”

Prof Erika Vlieghe, the infectious diseases expert and chair of the experts advising the governments on their post-lockdown strategy, has spoken of her concern after new coronavirus infections reached 100 a day on average.  Prof Vlieghe said haste was of the essence and that more information was urgently needed. Biostatistician Geert Molenberghs warns that if the figures stay bad relaxations will have to be reversed.

Most new infections are recorded in Antwerp Province, Limburg and Liege.  Prof Vlieghe: “We’re seeing more cases in the suburbs around Antwerp.  In other places, in Limburg and southern West Flanders you notice a permanent presence of the virus.”

Prof Vlieghe believes that more is needed than information about patients’ contacts: “We need to know about their activities, their hobbies, work, recent holidays. We also need enough specialised and experienced staff to do the detective work, put two and two together.”

At present contact tracers only need good language skills and a diploma of secondary education to do the job.

Biostatistician Geert Molenberghs thinks a more precise approach is needed too: “There are a number of sources.  We need to speak with local people and ensure those that are ill receive treatment.  We need to make sure these is no more than ‘scattered showers’ and not the start of a second wave.”

He welcomes the governments’ decision not to press ahead with further relaxations. We need to keep an eye on the figures and if they stay bad we’ll have to reverse some relaxations locally.”

One Belgian workplace doctor called for face coverings to be worn in offices.  Geert Molenberghs: “A lengthy meeting in a poorly ventilated space can turn into a ‘superspreading event’.  It’s been documented.  But if you’re alone in the office, there’s little point in wearing a covering.”

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